4/04/2013

c.1915 Supertone 5-String Banjo


Thank goodness the snow is gone! I can finally start taking more outdoorsy shots rather than quickly placing the instruments right on the front porch and snapping fast.

This is a customer's 5-string and it bears the Supertone (Sears catalog) label on the inside of the rim. I've worked on a lot of these in various model grades and the more I think I've got the maker pegged down the less I'm sure of it myself. Still, my hunch is that these were made by Lange for Sears as they're (for the most part) closely similar to documented Lange-made banjos sold to Bruno and Lyon & Healy from the same time.


Work included a new head, lots of cleaning, a fret level/dress, new bridge, one replacement hook/nut, a setup, and the installation of a new set of Waverly geared banjo pegs. The result is an extremely playable instrument with a good, warm, sweet old-time sound. It has a full 26" scale and a 10 5/8" pot which means the overtones aren't too strident, either.


Inlaid pearl star in the headstock. The headstock veneer, fretboard, and nut are all dyed maple or pearwood. Can't tell for sure.


Pearl dots in the board. These new pegs all have nice ivoroid buttons that look "period."




This pot was absolutely filthy when this instrument was received. Cleaning always brings back some beauty, though the hardware is still plenty tarnished with a few rust spots here and there. This rim design is spunover with a curled lip on the bottom but exposed wood on the top. Compared to ones with a curled lip on the top (which create an integral tonering) the tone of this is woodier and sweeter with fewer overtones and less zing.



...gotta love a set of fresh Waverlies.




All the original rim hardware is there save one replacement hook and nut. That's quite a feat for a banjo with so much gear!


Here you can see how much I've compensated with the tailpiece to account for either 1) improperly aligned dowel when it was built or 2) rim and neck changes over time. I've also had to shim up the neck's heel quite a bit but that's typical for these Supertones which tended to have very thin pots which warp out at the bottom from head tension over time (and thus force neck angle too far forwards).

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